GROTON – Last year, both the Tewksbury Boys and the Tewksbury/Methuen Co-op girls' hockey teams reached the state championship game. This year, both teams started off a bit slow, and today, both teams are on fire.
On Monday night, the Redmen boys defeated Billerica to run their winning streak to six games and improving their record to 11-2 overall.
This past Wednesday and Friday, the No. 4 ranked Red Rangers first knocked off No. 17 Billerica/Chelmsford 3-0, only to come back two days later to defeat Westford Academy, 4-3.
Those two wins extends the team’s unbeaten streak to seven, and their record to 6-1-3. The Red Rangers need five points in its last ten games to qualify for the state tournament.
“Overall, I am pleased with how our team has developed a purpose this season,” said head coach Sarah Oteri. “We had a slow start as many players were trying to determine their role and adjust to a slightly different game plan. We have been on a strong run, winning many games and continuing to get better.”
Already, the Red Rangers have played four of the top 17 teams in the entire state, and have games upcoming against five teams (some repeats) in the top 17 of the state including Wednesday's game against No. 13 Boston Latin, with results not known as of presstime.
“This time of the season always seems to be difficult with consistency and travel, but we continue to work hard in practice to fix aspects of our game that need improving,” said Oteri. “We play one of the hardest schedules in the state and we know we need to perform every single game and we look forward to the battle the second half of the season.”
The highlight of the week came from the big come from behind win over Westford Academy, coached by old friend Bob Ware, the TMHS Hall of Fame Athlete and former boys coach.
"We had a very slow start against Westford and it showed as we were down 2-0 after the first period," said Oteri. "We did not play to our potential and really let them dictate the pace of the first period. However, we came out strong in the second and really controlled the play and scored two goals."
Tewksbury High sophomore Jessica Driscoll scored both of the goals in the second period to make it 2-2. In the third period, WA went ahead 3-2, before Driscoll went back to work, scoring the third to net the hat trick and then fourth on the night, the game winner.
"The third period was back and forth with Westford scoring first, but then we were able to tie it up and Jess scored with under two minutes for the win," said Oteri. "The end of the game really showed strong effort from many of our girls as we won battles, controlled the puck, and blocked shots.
“Overall we were able to fight through some adversity and show our resilience, but a more complete effort is needed as we continue the season."
Driscoll now had an incredible 14 goals and three assists this year for 17 points coming in 10 games. The last three years combined, she had 11 goals and nine assists – and she's just a sophomore.
"Jess has done a great job of taking on a new role this season," said Oteri. "She has an amazing shot and is strong in battles. She works very well with her teammates and is always communicating and calling for the puck when she is open.
“Her confidence has also increased which allows her to drive the net and feel determined when she is shooting. She has worked very hard in practice to skate with her head up and find the back of the net."
Also in that win, Ryan Quinn had two assists, while, Brenna Greene and Madi Sjostedt had one each. Quinn is currently second on the team in scoring with two goals and eight assists and Greene is third with two goals and seven assists.
In the 3-0 win over No. 17 ranked Billerica/Chelmsford, Driscoll scored two goals, while, Quinn had a goal and an assist. Goalie Kaia Hollingsworth made all 23 saves for the shut out. She has given up just 12 goals this season out of 241 shots.
"We played a strong game on defense against Billerica-Chelmsford as they play an aggressive game and work the puck well down low,” said Oteri. “Kaia made some big stops for us right when we needed her to. We got better as the game went on and were able to score three key goals and pull away.”
After the game with Latin, the Red Rangers will host Waltham (6-2-3) on Saturday night at 7:00 pm and then will host Newton Co-Op (4-8-0) on Monday at 5:00 pm.
After that will be an extremely difficult schedule the rest of the way with No. 15 Andover (6-3-3), Acton-Boxboro, Billerica/Chelmsford, No. 4 HPNA (9-0-2), who also lead the RR by one point in the league standings, Westford Academy, No. 8 Shrewsbury and then No. 16 Masconomet.